Marklin locomotive (ca 1935)
Marklin locomotive (ca 1935)

Toy trains have been made since the 1830s; the earliest examples being made from lead and wood. From the 1870s, German manufacturers were producing expensive tin toy trains. By the 1890s, the German company Marklin was producing complete railway systems. Marklin is credited with standardizing most of the gauges in 1891.

In Britain, toy trains were seen as educational aids rather than playthings. Steam-powered brass locomotives were produced but most trains intended as toys were imported from Germany.

American toy trains were different again. The aim was to produce sturdy toys which could be easily assembled from a few basic shapes. As a result, American toy trains were made of heavier tin plate, brightly painted but rarely with any coaches. They were powered by clockwork, if at all.In 1901, Joshua Lionel Cowen created a battery-powered model train engine animate merchandise a store window display. People were more interested in buying the train than the merchandise. Cowen formed Lionel Trains to manufacture the toy trains.

Hornby locomotive (1972)
Hornby locomotive (1972)

Production of model trains ceased everywhere during the First World War. After the War, Hornby became the main manufacturer in Britain, beginning with simple. clockwork models bolted together like Hornby’s Meccano sets. Later models were soldered together. Hornby introduced its first electric train in 1927 and in the 1930s began producing its famous 20-volt models with large headlamps.

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